Agriculture This Week - Nostalgic for ag at summer fairs

This is not the first time I have written about how nostalgic I can become while attending the Yorkton Exhibition.

The summer fairs; Saskatoon, Yorkton, Melfort, Golburn, Invermay, Shand and others were essentially my combination summer camps and family holidays, from the time I was five until I was past my teens.

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That was starting in 1965, and continuing to the mid-1980s, which was a decidedly different time when looking at what summer fairs across the Canadian Prairies was all about.

In those long ago years summer fairs were largely agriculture events, first and foremost, with producers bringing out their best stock to be judged against the best of neighbours and friends. With the competition of the show ring came equal amounts of camaraderie in the barns before and after the judge rendered their verdict on who would take home the red ribbons.

In those days there were red ribbons for just about everything farmers raised on what were largely mixed farm operations. As a result, while predominantly showing pigs, over the years I won ribbons showing a friend’s calves in junior beef classes, took mom’s chickens to Shand Fair, showed dairy goats, sheep, grain sheaves, and even held the halter on an occasional draft horse in group classes to help out.

But as I sat in the grandstand last week watching the rodeo, the barns I once ferreted around as a youth in the distance, there was a sense of loss at the fair.

While a vibrant Regional 4-H Beef Show remains part of the Yorkton fair, and light horses have returned after a time when they too had disappeared from the fair agenda, agriculture maintains barely a toehold at the fair.

It is of course a change that has corresponded to farms continuing to grow larger, and in that process more specialized. With that comes less time to take stock to fairs, and in some cases, pigs among them, growing concern over the potential of disease spreading at such events.

While the reasons are reasonable, I still miss agriculture at summer fairs.

There is an element of my youth missing when there are Hereford cattle in the summer show rings, and Clydesdales, and pigs and sheep, that has me wishing a little for a return to the days of my youth.

I also suspect while the farm sector recognizes urban residents are increasingly isolated from farms, the chance to see livestock up close at summer fairs, to talk to producers, to connect in even that limited way, would help bridge the gap.

But alas that bridge is long lost.

And, that is just the change that ultimately comes with time.

Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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